When John McDonnell was asked for a snap response to the question, “Winston Churchill: hero or villain?” He replied:
“Tonypandy. Villain”, recalling that when Churchill was Home Secretary he ordered troops to combine with police forces in repressing striking miners. Churchill’s actions there resulted in a long- enduring resentment towards him in that district, and among wider layers of trade unionists. It was not a one-off, either. At Llanelli a year later, two people were killed by troops deployed by Churchill during a strike by railway workers.
He has also been labelled a racist and a “White supremacist”, though he demonstrated that he could mistreat whites whom he considered inferior or less deserving of rights. As Colonial Secretary in the 1920s, he ordered the vicious “Black and Tans” to repress Irish Catholics.
His more straightforward racism/white supremacism was shown in relation to Arab peoples. When Iraqi Kurds rebelled against British rule, Churchill said, “I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes.” In the 1930s he described Palestinian Arabs as “barbarian hordes who ate little but camel dung”.
He freely admitted that he hated Indians describing them as “a beastly people with a beastly religion”. He cast black natives of Africa as “barbarous” and applied the term “savages” to the Sudanese people he encountered in his own military service.
He showed an iron consistency in his racist, imperialist views in a statement to the Palestine Commission in 1937 that upheld Britain’s role in deciding the fate of Palestine, and downgraded the rights of indigenous Palestinians in favour of settlers favoured by European powers. He compared Palestinian Arabs with the victims of other acts of what he considered racial/eugenic progress, telling the commission: “I do not admit… that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly-wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.”
His enthusiastic support for “nationalist Jews”, favoured by European imperialism, was fundamentally at odds though with his attitude towards internationalist Jews. Here is an extract from my book Battle for the East End (Five Leaves Publications, 2011):
“The notion of an international Jewish communist conspiracy had become a popular antisemitic myth following the First World War, having evolved from an earlier notion of a Jewish conspiracy outlined in the notorious Czarist forgery, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.
“Some prominent politicians lent credence to these theories. Winston Churchill, writing in the Illustrated Sunday Herald in 1920, praised Zionist Jewish efforts in Palestine and contrasted them with the allegedly malign influence of ‘international’ and ‘atheistic’ Jews whom he believed were part of: “…this worldwide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilization and the reconstruction of society on the basis of arrested development, of envious malevolence, and impossible equality”. He added:
‘This movement amongst the Jews is not new… It has been the mainspring of every subversive movement during the 19th Century; and now at last this band of extraordinary personalities has gripped the Russian people by the hair of their heads and have become practically the undisputed masters of that enormous empire. There is no need to exaggerate the part played in the creation of Bolshevism and in the actual bringing about of the Russian Revolution, by these international and for the most part atheistic Jews, it is certainly a very great one; it probably outweighs all others. With the notable exception of Lenin, the majority of the leading figures are Jews.’
“In this extraordinary article Churchill acknowledged a debt to Nesta Webster who had written a series of articles for the Morning Post illuminating an alleged Jewish–Bolshevik conspiracy. The previous year the Morning Post had claimed that Jews controlled the Russian government.”
During World War 2 many people pleaded with Churchill to bomb the railway lines to the death camps. He never gave that order.